French President Nicolas Sarkozy has challenged his Socialist rival Francois Hollande to a series of televised debates ahead of the second round of the country’s presidential elections.
The incumbent head of state said he failed to understand why Hollande would not accept his proposal to hold three debates, instead of just one.
“I cannot understand why Mr Hollande is avoiding these debates. I do not understand it, when he had three easy debates against his Socialist comrades. Now it’s time to debate in front of the French people”, Sarkozy said.
Speaking outside his campaign headquarters in Paris, Sarkozy also made his first overtures to supporters of the nationalist National Front party.
“The National Front voters need to be respected, they made a choice, they expressed themselves. It’s a vote of suffering. A vote of crisis. Why insult them because of it?” the incumbent president asked.
The French president is expected to talk up issues such as immigration and crime in a bid to woo those who backed Marine Le Pen’s party in the first round.
The two remaining candidates will go head-to-head live on French television on May the second.